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June 2, 2016

Bill Gates declares ‘AI is the holy grail’, but at what cost to humanity?

News: Bosses at Microsoft and Tesla warn of the dangers of artificial intelligence, while Facebook and Google ready AI strategies.

By Joao Lima

Top executives from Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Tesla have spoken out on AI readiness and the dangers associated with such technology.

The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, told Recode’s Live Code conference audience that "the [AI] dream is finally arriving", yet he warned of issues that will hit humanity as AI expands its reach.

Speaking next to his wife, Melinda Gates, Microsoft’s founder recognised that enough technological progress has been made to ensure that in the next decade machines will be able to autonomously do everyday tasks, like driving for example.

Gates said: "This is what it was all leading up to. [AI] is the most exciting thing going on right now. It is the holy grail that anyone in computer science has been thinking about."

Yet, Gates recognised two major problems with the introduction of AI. He said advanced AI robotics will eliminate jobs, and that there is also a real issue with making sure humans retain control of machines at all times.

Echoing Gates’ warning over AI, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk also shared his worry that AI is only used by a small percentage of people "to the detriment of humanity as a whole". Although excited about AI developments, Musk told the Live Code audience that "not all AI futures are benign,’ and that very real dangers are associated with the technology.

The other two big headliners at the conference were Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook director Hussein Mehanna, with both talking strategy and their companies objectives in the AI market.

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Google’s Pichai confidently stated that his company was in the AI game to win it. He said: "For us, we definitely see a huge opportunity. We see it as an inflection point. We started feeling it about three to four years ago."

Pichai also said that he believes the company is ahead of other big technology companies like Apple.

"We do a variety of bench-marking studies, so we generally feel we are ahead," he said.

Elsewhere, Facebook’s core machine learning engineering director Hussein Mehanna, told Recode that the company is building a new AI tool that will help understand users’ posts on the social media website.

The system has been named Deep Text and is built on neural networks. Such networks are an AI arm built to learn and mimic humans’ brains giving machines and software more human-like capabilities.

With Deep Text, Facebook will be able to understand users’ posts more accurately and make better decisions on a case by case basis.

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